Numbered Days. Numbered Nights~

1567 days.
I know because I checked.
After waking up in these too early morning hours.
I didn’t check right away, of course.
Because I do what we all do when we’re not supposed to focus on what we don’t have
I try to think of other things.
Staring into the darkness of my tiny space
My gaze landing on the bright blue light of the radio.
That’s no good.
It immediately reminds me of the light in the distance
On the mountain top
Staring at it night after night as I paced the floors of our condo in Cathedral City, after you died.
What was that light?
The harder I strive to not think of you, this life without you….
The more insistent the thoughts become.
So…I stop trying to not think of things…of everything…and just let my mind go.
And the flood is instantaneous.
Words and images and emotions swirl into the whirlpool of my mind and my heart
And my soul aches unbearably
So I reach for my phone and check the days since app and yes…my heart knew what the numbers state. The numbers are almost meaningless, really, because who can define forever?
I put on a mindless TV show and stare at it, hearing nothing. I read a book and the words are meaningless. I eat a muffin and it’s tasteless. I’m not hungry and I’m not eating my feelings…I’m just trying to find something so that I don’t think for a moment…
Should I try to sleep again? I have to work in the morning. My body is wired. My mind restless. My heart painful.
Where are you, D? More importantly, why aren’t you here with me, where you belong? How many more nights of this? How many days and months and years?
My body aches for you. My mind wanders to where you and I were, but are no longer.
Distraction works for only so long in this life without you. It really doesn’t work at all, but I have to do life, right? It is required of me, by life, to do life.
So, I do.
But, oh, how untethered I am. This life, as colorful as it looks, is empty because you aren’t here in it, with me. I’m wandering, is all, jabbing at life where I can, trying to find my way, but it feels empty, no matter what I do, and my soul and body knows that something, someone, vital is missing from me.
Will this ever change? Will I ever find something anything that makes me feel that, yes, this is why I’m here still? When will I care again? When will I not wake and stare into the night again? When will I not feel the alone-ness of this life? Will I ever find a sense of peace in my heart and soul again?
I hear all the words that society says about all of this, and I do all that I’m supposed to do and I do it with intent, but in the end…
I stare into the darkness, gazing at that blue light…
And my heart hurts and I miss you I miss you I miss you…
My god how I ache for you…

Our Moonlit Dance Through Time~

We danced under the moonlit, starlit, skies
You and I
Your right arm around my back, your left hand grasping mine.
We turned and swayed and moved our feet not only to the music from the player
but to the hushed beat of our two hearts.
Under the starlit skies in our backyard.
Everywhere and nowhere
For no reason and every reason
Our bodies moving so well together
Even when it looked like we were walking side by side
We were actually dancing
Because we were so in sync
You, on my right side because you had hearing loss in your right ear
I still keep my right hand free when I walk
Just in case
Maybe….maybe someday I’ll feel your hand take mine again
We moved and swayed together for 24 years
In passion, in motion, in love, in sync
That space on my right side?
There is a gaping emptiness there that is as tangible as your physical presence once was
And my physical body reaches towards that emptiness
Only to find air
And I think it just kind of remains suspended there
Not knowing where to go or how to go, differently
I don’t know how to go, differently.
But I move and I sway sometimes
In my memory
Under moonlit skies I raise my hand to your shoulder and place my right hand in yours
Universes and stars and moonlit darkness gleam as our dance floor
And I spirit dance with you~  Collaccge

Grace Absorbed~

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This picture expresses it all for me.
Where I am in this widowed life.
It was taken 3 years ago, but even then, without knowing….I was determined.
Determined that Love must be bigger than the devastation.
Determined that if I knew nothing else, if I remembered nothing else, I would know and remember the Love that Chuck left behind for me.
And I would make it shine forth from me so brightly that it would rival the sun.

And it does. It shines and it shimmers and it glows.
It isn’t any easier for me than it is for anyone else in this widow life.
What you can’t see in this picture, what is invisible to the human eye and completely visible to my eye, is the humongous shape of Chuck’s absence that is always with me.
His physical and tangible absence right there to the left of me.
That’s the side he walked on, always, because of deafness in his right ear.
The day this picture was taken, I very consciously chose my clothing, wanting them to reflect the fucking warrior goddess that I was determined to be.
I chose a clear crystal to wear around my neck, on a strand of pink beads.  Clear crystal, so that the light would shine through. Pink because, well…pink, and Chuck said wear pink to mourn for me, not black.  Pink is your color.
I wore leggings that I laced with pink thread. They were a bit ragged, which suited me.  I was ragged and torn up. I still am.
A lace shirt to remind myself of softness and light and my femininity. What I was, what I felt, when Chuck and I were together.
A laced suede vest denoting armor.  Widowhood is not for sissies.  Life is a battle for me, everyday.  I make the decision every day to get up and suit up and show up, and I armor myself in pink, for strength.  For Love.
A sword. But a sword for Love, not violence. A sword because a fucking warrior goddess must have a sword.
I purposefully went barefoot that day, as I crossed streams and climbed red rocks to get to a rise above the earth. I wanted my feet to sink into the ground.  I wanted them dirty and natural and bare.  Bare and as stripped down as I felt.
And, as I posed and lifted my face to the sun above me, I felt, even as my shredded heart beat beneath my lace shirt and suede vest…I absorbed the grace descending upon me.
Grace.
What I needed then, what I need now, to carry me, along with the Love that is the only real and tangible thing to me in these 4 years and 3 months of without-ness.
I lift my face to the sun, still, and I lift my face to the moon and stars at night, as I travel my Odyssey of Love.  I speak to Chuck and I ask him to send even more Love here to me, more Love to hold onto, more grace to continue on.
Love…the Love that Chuck left behind for me, the Love that I feel for him now and always, is the very breath of my existence. It fuels me, it gets me going, it keeps me going.
I lift my eyes to the skies to absorb Chuck, wherever he is, if he is…and I breathe the Love from him into every step I take, every mile I drive.
It’s all I have.
And it isn’t enough.
Except that..
It is.

It must be.

My Widow Summer Essay~

If I were in school, this would be my “How I Spent my Summer” essay..
I was…I still am, til the middle of August…working at an opera camp in the Ozarks.
Students come from around the world to perfect their art.  Orchestra comes from around the world to play for the students when they present their operas.  Staff brings their talents/gifts to teach and guide the students.
Carmen.  The Marriage of Figaro.  Susannah.
These 3 operas will always ring through my mind and my heart now, as I connect them with a summer spent learning and doing things I never thought to learn or do.
Lay a concrete block wall.  Paint that wall.  Ride a tractor to mow acres of campus. Weed whack a very long hillside, sweat pouring from me.  Unflinchingly watch as a 5 foot long black snake slithers away from me.  Very intently spray around my pink trailer for huge spiders.  Help bail out a failed well, hauling bucket upon bucket of water, covered head to toe in mud.  Watch as costumes are made and props are turned out in the woodshop.  Take breaks from the muggy heat inside a theatre while rehearsals go on and see those props now as furniture and buildings and scenery.
Sit in the audience while young people I’ve come to know sing their hearts out.
Sit and talk with theatre directors and stage managers and singers and learn about perspective.  I’ve always been good with looking at something and seeing many possibilities beyond its’ intent, but this summer I went to a new level.
How did I widow this summer?
I gained more perspective.

I revamped my understanding of the word acceptance.  In a vastly different way than we’re generally told to accept, when it comes to grief and widowhood.
Here’s what it means to me now….
I accept that Chuck is dead.  Shit, I’ve always accepted that.  Duh.  The perspective shift is that, hey, what I accept is that grief and love fully co-exist, and in my own little world of nothing being okay…that is okay.
I accept that some level of this heaviness of heart will always be a part of me.  A huge part of me. Me.  With other stuff on top of it occasionally. Maybe.  But it’s my baseline now, because Chuck is, you know…dead, and I miss him with all that I am and I always will, and that does something to my heart.  And, once again, in my own little world of nothing being okay, that is okay.
I fully embrace that my mind and my heart are living in the past, on my memories, even as I go about daily living shit because I’m alive and have to make a living.  And I’m good with living in the past. In that I’m perfectly okay with doing so.
I loudly and fully declare that I will never say goodbye to Chuck, though I’ve been told that I must.  Nope. Not going to.  I don’t see the need and my heart won’t cooperate with  doing such a thing.  My perspective on saying goodbye?  I need to do absofuckinglutely the opposite of that!  I need to say hello to him, I need to find him in more than my memory. The night he died it felt like he disappeared and the life we’d shared together disappeared as if it had never happened.  Fuck no to saying goodbye.  And fuck yes to holding him closer and closer until he becomes me and I become him.
I’ve learned and I accept that I don’t need to move on or move forward or try to be or not be one way or another or talk myself out of or into thinking or feeling any thought or emotion.  Whatever I happen to be or feel at any given moment is where I am. Period. I don’t give a grand fuck what the DSM says or so called experts or anyone else, about grief and where any of us should be need to be do everything you can to change where you are don’t be the way you are be something different something else don’t linger in the past blah blah fucking blah.
I will talk about Chuck til the cows come home and beyond that, til all the stars in the sky disappear and I take my final breath and that final breath I take will be a whisper of his name into the beyond.
I will not defend or explain any of the above.  This is me.  It’s who I am.  It doesn’t matter to me one iota whether others like it or think I should be or do something else.  If it’s too much for you, I give you permission to not be around me.  You think all of this isn’t healthy for me?  Bite me.
This summer of my widowhood?
I’ve made the strong and determined decision to perform a one woman show based on my Odyssey of Love.  This summer with its’ operas and color and performances, witnessing the talent…yeah, I have some of acting craft in me, and my story calls for more creativity and color and depth.
And I’m the woman who can…and will…give it such.
I’ve already begun the script, I have the vision, I have people to work with me and I have more fucking determination than I’ve ever had in the years and months and forevers since Chuck’s death.
My goal is 6 months to prep, and then I’m taking it out on the road to venues north south east and west.
Chuck set me on a mission before he died.  He knew I was a woman who needed a mission, and he knew…he knew….that I’d create something spectacular with it.
The Love story that he and I shared…our Love story that ended too damn fucking soon…our Love story that is now mine to carry….Chuck left it in good hands.
I’m going to take our Love story out into the world in a fucking explosion of pink and I will become Love and only Love and every damn person I meet along the way will know the name of the man I loved, the man who loved me…
Chuck D.
I am his and he is mine and I carry us and who we were in my heart and mind.
Don’t mourn for me in black.  It isn’t your color. Wear pink.  Mourn for me in pink.
Mission embraced, D.
Mission embraced.
With all the Love you gave me and I gave you and we gave each other~

Brain Activity. Or Something~

I’m so fucking lonely without Chuck. Not because I don’t know how to be alone, duh…but because I loved being with him and around him and breathing in his scent and looking into his eyes and because I was in love with him. Duh. What does me being lonely without him have to do with not knowing how to be alone? If you love someone, I’d think you like to be with them, but maybe that’s just me.
My body aches for him.
I wish I cared that I don’t care about the future, but I don’t care that I don’t care.
I wonder what it would be like to kiss another man. Will it freak me out or will it intrigue me?
Chuck hoped that I’d find another man to love someday.
I don’t care that Chuck would want me to be happy. Let him be the one to live this life without me, then we’ll talk.
I hate drama of any sort. People who get upset over bullshit irritate the shit out of me. And naming something as bullshit is a personal judgement, yes.
Do I hate being on the road or do I love being on the road? I don’t know. All that I do know is that it’s the only life I have, and the only life I can imagine.
I dream of a pristine hotel room with clean, soft sheets and a nearby, equally pristine bathroom with a huge soaking tub even though I don’t like taking baths. Lovely scented lotions line the rim of the tub.
I feel so hardened. Not bitter, just hardened from surviving. From doing it on my own.
I can’t say that I’ve learned anything of value with Chuck’s death. I was already deeply compassionate and loving and caring. What exactly am I supposed to have learned from Chuck’s death? How strong I am? I already knew I was strong before he died. So did he.
This is bullshit.
I love my kids deeply. Also my grandkids. And none of those relationships replace what I had with Chuck. Why does that surprise anyone?
Chuck was the handsomest man I ever met. Still the handsomest man I’ve ever seen. It seems to me that there are an awful lot of men who don’t take care of themselves physically. For god’s sake, stop wearing what I consider pedal pushers; those baggy shorts that hit right below the knees. Especially denim ones. You look stupid. Wear a clean t-shirt. Know how to dress up if the occasion calls for it.
Are there any real men left in our world? Masculine men? I don’t think there are.
I miss Chuck’s sexiness. He was an excellent lover. He could turn me on with a glance.
I feel aimless in life. Mostly it’s just something to get through each day, til I can go to sleep again.
I used to hate night times. Now I appreciate them so that I can be completely alone and not have to put forth energy into interacting with others.
I cry frequently, when I’m alone.
I look so strong on the outside.  Looks are deceiving.
I long to dance with Chuck again, moving against him, his arms around me.
I look at women who have their husbands around, who seem to hate having their husbands around, who bitch and complain at them and micromanage them and get pissy especially over shit that doesn’t matter, and I wonder what the fuck is wrong with this world, that my husband is dead and theirs is alive.
I also look at women who look at me, as a widow, those who judge my grief and wonder why I’m not over it, and think…yeah, just wait and see what it’s like for you, sister. Just wait. And I hope to god you have compassionate people around you when it happens. Because it’s pure, fucking, unadulterated, fucking hell that I wouldn’t wish on anyone.
I get that death is a part of life. When someone says that to me, I just want to respond to them What the fuck does that have to do with anything?
Sunsets make me cry. So does looking at a full moon. The beauty of both reminds me of watching them with Chuck. No, the memories don’t make me feel better. They make me miss him more, okay? What the fuck makes you think that remembering the good times makes me feel better?
I do remember the good times.  That’s why I’m sad, for god fucking sake. There are no more good times to be had with the one I had them with, and…that makes me so sad that I can’t stand it.
How do I keep getting up each day? And why do I keep getting up each day? I hate that about me.
Sometimes, like a comet flashing across the sky, images of Chuck on his deathbed come to me and freak me out again. When was the last time he was conscious and looked at me, I wonder? Did he glance at me for a last time and I wasn’t aware of it? Did I miss his last glance?
Does he know that all I do is think about him, even as I’m doing all the goddamn shit I’m supposed to be doing to re-engage with life?
My heart hurts for our kids. Their dad should still be in their lives.
My heart hurts for me, too.
Chuck still had so much living to do.
I really don’t want to be here but I don’t say that aloud very often because people will think I’m unstable or ungrateful for life or some stupid shit like that.
But I really don’t want to be here. Life without Chuck is lacking in color and energy.
I loved taking care of him. It was a turn-on, actually. And it turned him on to see me ironing his clothes, of all things. He also loved it when I wore his shirts. I wear his denim shirt to bed now, or when I’m alone in my trailer, even though he isn’t here to turn on anymore. I also put his favorite Key West t-shirt under my cheek when I sleep. I curl my fingers around his flag that rests next to me on my pillow.
I cry a lot when I’m alone. I already said that earlier, but believe it or not, I don’t let myself think about my emotions very often, or admit to them. So, I’m saying it again. I cry a lot when I’m alone.
As a liberated woman, I don’t think I’m supposed to admit that my life revolved around my husband, around what I could do to show my love for him, show my Love to him, but it did and I loved loving him. Chuck made it easy, because he did the same for me.
Life without Chuck is unbearable but you’d never know that by looking at all that I’ve done, all that I’m doing, in the years since his death.
It freaks me out that I’m headed towards year 5. I close that particular gate in my mind whenever the thought intrudes.
Chuck is only dead one day at a time for me. Otherwise I can’t do this.
I’m in love with a dead man.

Return To Me~

Return to me…
Please come back…
Return to me, with your strong arms
That wrapped round me…
And made me feel safe and secure
No matter what was going on around us.
Return to me, with your broad shoulders
Upon which I rested my head
And listened to your heartbeat…
Until our breathing became one breath and I felt reassured and knew, always,
That my world was good, and would always be good
Because you were in it.
Return to me…
With your smile that lit up my world
And brightened my days
Even if we were on the phone and you were far away
I’d feel your smile and…
My world was serene.
Return to me…
With your green eyes that would catch mine across a crowded room
And the one would crinkle in a slow wink
Meant only for me…
A wink that carried promises of passion and flirtation and teasing
And my heart would grow giddy and butterflies flutter in my stomach.
Return to me…
Take my hand in yours again, wrap your fingers around mine…
Return to me, my beloved
I beg of you…
Hold me, touch me, love me, dance with me, put your hand upon my knee, kiss me, envelop me.
My body longs for you
My heart beats for you
My mind wanders to you and me and what we had…
My pulse is your pulse…
And I die inside a little each day, that I don’t have you any longer…
That you don’t have me any longer…
That we are gone and it is just me here on this earth…
Return to me, my beloved…

Birthdays~

Chuck threw me a huge birthday party for my 50th.  To be honest, our daughter, Rachael-Grace, helped out with it quite a bit, but it was lovely.  A dear friend, who died the year before Chuck, baked a red velvet cake.  My friends were there from all walks of life.  Our kids were there; it was a memorable 50th.

Life changes quickly, and the following year, for my 51, we were just beginning our new life on the road and Chuck surprised me with a trip to Graceland.  I’d always been a huge Elvis fan and he knew this would be a huge hit. As it was.  I didn’t have any idea where we were headed until I saw the sign that said Memphis.  We stayed in a hotel that had framed Elvis pictures in each room, a guitar shaped swimming pool and Elvis music playing throughout the grounds. All songs which I knew and Chuck got such a kick out of me singing along with them.

One of my earliest birthday memories, after Chuck and I married, is the year he took the time leading up to my birthday to get my address book and ask everyone in it to call me on my birthday.  He also alerted his family and friends.  I spent the day answering our, yes, land line phone, and hearing Happy Birthday, Alison!  Chuck made my birthdays so special, every year.

My next few birthdays were spent on the road; I don’t even remember where. What I do recall is that I spent them with him, hiking and exploring the USA.  We had all the time in the world together and that was the greatest gift of all.  With lots of wild and crazy birthday sex.

The last great present I received for my birthday, my 55th, was the news that Chuck’s first cancer had been eradicated numerous surgeries.  He was cancer free, with really really really good odds that it wouldn’t return.  God, did we celebrate…I knew a cancer survivor! and that cancer survivor was my beloved husband.

I’m 59 today.  Chuck has been dead for 4 years.  Fucking cancer got my cancer survivor after all, and my birthdays have never been the same.

I know, I know…I can hear it now.  But you must celebrate you! You must grab life and savor it and live it!

Here’s the thing.  I know, because I’m a smart, loving person, that I must allow our kids to celebrate me. I must allow my friends and family and all who love me, to celebrate me. And I do and it means so much, especially since Chuck is no longer here to wrap me in his arms and plant a huge, lonnnngggg kiss on my lips, leaving me dizzy.

In just the past month, I’ve received 2 gifts that touch my heart in the only ways that matter:  I was reunited with my younger sister, after many years of estrangement, and my wee grandson, Owen Charles, was born.  Each of these huge events touch my heart.

But there is a loneliness that goes along with my birthdays in the years since Chuck’s death and that’s just a fact of life.  It’s the new world that I live in.

So, today, here in the Ozarks, at the opera camp, on my 59th birthday, living a life I’d never imagined or planned for (emotionally), my gift to myself is telling each person that I meet that it is my birthday and I want hugs.

I want hugs from every person who comes within my radius today. Hugs, hugs and more hugs.  All the love that comes with those hugs is what keeps me going, and my heart expands with each hug.

And that’s what I ask of you, too.  Anyone who is reading my words today.  For my birthday, your gift to me is to hug people you meet along your way today.  Stop for a minute, share some time with them, connect with them, and don’t leave them without hugging them.

And maybe, whisper a word to Chuck, whether you know him or not, that you’re all looking out for his girl.

Thank you.

Happy birthday, me~